I sat with a group of friends at a recent social meeting. We visited, had a delicious lunch and talked about a variety of topics. It was a very relaxed, laid-back meeting until I mentioned the aggravation of unwanted calls and messages invading my phones and email.
Immediately the tenor of voices in the room rose as person after person related their experiences with the epidemic of spoofing, scams and robocalls. The overall conclusion was they were as fed up with the cowards behind this growing industry as me.
If you, by some unusual chance, are not familiar with the mechanisms used to extort money from unsuspecting people let me identify the three culprits. A Scam is plain and simple fraud perpetrated on a trusting victim to extort money or your identity information. The second demon in the unholy trio is Spoofing; this is where the number the crook is calling from is magically falsified and transmitted to your caller ID in order to disguise the caller’s identity like the abundance of local number calls I get regularly. And then we have the ever-present Robocalls. These calls are recorded messages. Robocalls have a slight redeeming quality if they are from your physician’s office reminding you of your appointment or perhaps from the school concerning a snow day (tongue in cheek) or even the million and one political calls if you are so inclined to listen to them.
But, mixed in with the helpful Robocalls are those constant barrages of advertisement calls or worse are the ones that inform you that you are in trouble if you don’t press a number to talk to an officer.
As of today I have been called by the IRS informing me that I owed them money; by the Social Security that my card number was being used in South Texas; by some unknown source telling me my college debt was turned over to a collection agency; by Microsoft saying I owed them $299 and that it would be drawn from my bank account immediately; by the Police Association and the Fireman’s Association trying to get money; and the list goes on and on. Thank God, I haven’t been called by someone saying my grandchild is in need of bail money and if I don’t send it immediately Lord knows what may happen to them!
It doesn’t end with phone calls. My email is clogged with (Phishing) messages supposedly from my carrier Windstream telling me that I need to update my personal information immediately or my account will be closed. I talked with a representative from Windstream yesterday and she assured me it was not them who’d sent the email. I wondered how many folks had fallen for the scam and had released their identity information to be used for the benefit of a thief.
A word of warning: If you do answer the call and there is a moment of silence DON’T say a word, in fact don’t make a sound because if you do on the other end there is actually a computer gathering information about you. Any sound will signal the computer that the 10 digits it just dialed is an active line answered by humans. Even if a sweet woman’s voice or a sound-alike Sam Elliott’s voice asked if you can hear them, don’t answer yes!! It could be a computer capturing an audio of your yes as an agreement to purchase something.
So what can we do? Good question, and apparently the answer is “live with it!” I’ve talked with the Social Security people, the Microsoft people and the Windstream people, I’ve even called the “Do Not Call” (888-382-1222) back in 2003 and so far my number continues to be a favorite hit for the no good scoundrels that won’t get a decent job.
Technology is a wondrous invention but it comes with a high price tag when you think of the more than $10 billion that has been stolen from unsuspecting folks like you and me who thought we were getting a good deal.